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Guiding lights of sustainability

ASU plans series of events, activities in observance of Campus Sustainability Month


Two young people talking as they walk down a path below a solar panel shade structure.

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September 30, 2022

When Arizona State University employee Madelynne Greathouse looks at a building on the Tempe campus, she recognizes its beauty — from both inside and out.

“It’s really cool to show off some of our LEED-certifiedLEED provides a framework for healthy, efficient, carbon and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. buildings to people because of the design elements and how they’re constructed,” said Greathouse, sustainability graduate student in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and management intern for University Sustainability Practices, who will be conducting Sustainability Tours throughout the month of October.

For example, if you walk into our Social Sciences courtyard, you'll notice a drop in the temperature from the outside. You'll be surprised to discover that it uses no energy to cool the spaceThe classrooms in the Social Sciences building are air conditioned.. Instead, it uses passive cooling with the water feature and the plants to chill the space. Or how our Student Pavilion’s design captures condensation and filters it into our air conditioning system. It’s a fun and interesting way to get people engaged with sustainability,” she said.

Getting people engaged with sustainability is a year-round mission at ASU, but it is a focal point during October, otherwise known as Campus Sustainability Month. The tradition was started by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, or AASHE, and is an international celebration that encourages seeking innovative ways to make a positive impact on the world.

ASU has organized activities, events and experiences on different campuses throughout the month of October to engage and inspire incoming students and other campus stakeholders to become sustainability change agents. In addition to sustainability tours, the month's offerings include displays, recycling audits, produce giveaways, service projects and more.

“Campus Sustainability Month is an opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues to showcase ASU’s commitment and leadership to sustainability within our campus, our community and beyond,” said Susan Norton, program manager for University Sustainability Practices. “We educate and engage the campus community with events, workshops and activities throughout the month of October that aim to provide actionable steps one can take to help ASU advance our sustainability goals.”

Those eight sustainability goals are what brought Kirby Skoric from Wyoming to ASU, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in the School of Sustainability.

“When I finished my bachelor’s degree in Wyoming, I was on the hunt for what I should do next in terms of pursuing my sustainability career,” said Skoric, who along with Greathouse is a management intern with University Sustainability Practices and a sustainability tour guide. “I did some research and discovered that ASU is committed to sustainability and has received many accolades. For me, they are a leader when it comes to finding sustainable solutions.”

On the tours, both Greathouse and Skoric will discuss ASU’s sustainability goals, but will especially stress personal action.

“When we give these tours, we try and make people aware of all of our efforts here on campus, whether it’s composting, recycling or adopting certain behaviors,” Skoric said. “We raise awareness of the action that ASU is trying to implement.”

In addition to the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory — launched with the goal of keeping our planet habitable and home to the first-ever school dedicated to sustainability — ASU is a global leader in this field.

The results are hard to dispute.

In April, ASU was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 globally in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for work supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

ASU also notched No. 1 on Sierra magazine’s annual “coolest schools” ranking of the most environmentally friendly colleges and universities in North America.

The university is also one of the few institutions in the world that carries a platinum rating by AASHE, which provides a sustainability tracking assessment for colleges and universities.

In 2020, the university surpassed its lofty ambition to achieve climate neutrality by 2025 — six years ahead of its original goal

ASU continues to make progress in landfill waste reduction, diverting 41.3% of its waste to recycling efforts. They also gathered 34 tons of donations for programs such as Treasures for Teachers and the students’ Ditch the Dumpster program.

Green Waste increased by 20% to an all-time high, with 1,261 tons diverted across the ASU Polytechnic, Tempe and West campuses.

Cars are also being folded into ASU’s sustainability plans as the university installed 22 electric charging ports, totaling 98 charging ports available for use across ASU’s four campuses in metropolitan Phoenix.

The university now has 69 LEED-certified building projects and 90 solar installations on all four campuses in the metro Phoenix area. The installations tally approximately 90,000 solar panels, shaded parking spots and stadium seats, and represent nearly 50% of ASU’s current daytime peak load. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this is enough solar energy to power 3,366 Arizona homes.

Beyond rankings, buildings and solar panels, ASU has fostered a sustainability community of faculty, scholars, staff and students who are free to explore and create sustainability programs and get others to thinking about their role in helping the environment. The Sustainable Cities Network program partnered with the city of Peoria and the town of Clarksdale on 20 applied projects with 307 graduate and undergraduate students. The projects promote research and recommendations on various topics, such as strategic planning for sustainability, affordable housing and sustainable waste management.

That makes Greathouse not only happy, but proud of what she does and how she will lend a hand in shaping the future.

“What I love about sustainability is that it’s a very creative way to live and helps you think beyond the status quo,” Greathouse said. “You’re able to develop solutions outside of the norm that help the environment as well as improve our society.”

A month of sustainability events

Sustainability Displays at Student Pavilion
Oct. 4–25

Learn about various campus displays that speak to ASU’s commitment and dedication to ASU’s sustainable practices at the Student Pavilion on the ASU Tempe campus.

Sustainability Walking Tours
2 p.m. Oct. 5; 11 a.m. Oct. 13; 10 a.m. Oct. 18; noon Oct. 24

Each tour starts at the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus. Find more information and RSVP here.

Sustainability and You at ASU tabling
10 a.m. to noon Oct. 6.

Join the University Sustainability Practices team in celebrating Campus Sustainability Month on Taylor Mall at the Downtown Phoenix campus. Activities include games, giveaways and opportunities for individuals to learn more about sustainability opportunities at ASU.

Men’s football: Green Game
1 p.m. Oct. 8

The ASU men’s football team faces the Washington Huskies at Sun Devil Stadium.

Women’s Volleyball: Green Game
1 p.m. Oct. 9

The ASU women’s volleyball team faces USC at Desert Financial Arena.

Fair Trade Tips, Tricks and Treats Tabling
10 a.m. to noon Oct. 12

Learn about Fair Trade and why it is so important when purchasing with sustainability and ethical labor practices in mind. Fair Trade educational opportunities and treats will be provided. Stop by the table at the Dean's Patio at the W. P. Carey School of Business on the Tempe campus.

Solar Sewing Rover Event – Paul Nosa
noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 13

Engage with the artwork of artist Paul Nosa. Utilizing a sewing machine powered fully by a solar panel and bike, Nosa will create sustainable embroidery patches inspired by three words or less. Find University Sustainability Practices, Nosa and his Solar Rover at the Dean’s Patio at the W. P. Carey School of Business on the Tempe campus.

Basics of Herb Gardening
11 a.m. to noon Oct. 14

Stop by the Garden Commons for a Basics of Herb Gardening workshop. Learn about best-growing practices for herbs that thrive in the Sonoran Desert. A tour of the garden and easy-to-start seeds are included. This workshop will take place at the Garden Commons on the Polytechnic campus.

Sustainable Food Fest
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 19

Stop by the Engrained patio to learn more about local sustainable food vendors and the products they produce, grow and sell. Many of these items are used by Sun Devil Hospitality in the various dining halls and P.O.D. Markets across all campuses. This takes place on the Engrained patio on the Tempe campus.

Green Event Planner Training
1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 20

Are you hosting an event on campus and curious how you can make it sustainable? Join the University Sustainability Practices team in learning how to host sustainable events. Learn about composting at events, plant-based catering, encouraging public transit use and more at this two-hour informational session. University Sustainability Practices will bring this training to ASU’s West campus in the University Center Building (room 241).

Garden Commons Volunteer Workday
8 to 10 a.m. Oct. 21

Join the University Sustainability Practices team for a morning of harvesting, planting and learning about the Garden Commons at ASU’s Polytechnic campus. They’ll host volunteers at the Garden Commons at the Polytechnic campus.

Status of Women Conference
Oct. 26–27

Join the women of University Sustainability Practices in conversations about the ways we can reduce waste in our daily routines while still being attentive to our self-care needs. Learn how beauty products, clothing and other common self-care components can negatively impact both the environment and our bodies. Discover more about sustainable alternatives to everyday products and discuss the environmental impacts of clothing choices weighed against sustainably sourced options. Attend “The Intersection of Sustainability and Self-Care” via Zoom from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. on Oct. 26 and in-person at the Tempe campus Memorial Union from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 27.  

Single Use Scaries
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 28

Stop by the tables at the Student Pavilion and let the Zero Waste and University Sustainability Practices teams teach you about why single-use items are so scarily unsustainable. Engage with displays of common single-use items and challenge yourself to swap your single-use items for sustainable ones. Tables are located outside of the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus.

Students, employees and other ASU community members can explore more opportunities like these on ASU Events

Find more events on the Campus Sustainability Month website and at ASU Events.

Top photo: Sustainability solutions graduate students Kirby Skoric and Madelynne Greathouse walk under the solar shade between the Memorial Union and Hayden Library on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Tempe campus. The two are also management interns and guides for University Sustainability Practices who will lead walking tours during Campus Sustainability Month. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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